5 min read
by Kelsey Duchesne | 05/11/2019
For many of us, our Moms can be a direct source of comfort, empathy, and knowledge. They seem to have all the answers, from impossible stain removal to strong job negotiation tactics. They have the curious ability to know what you’re thinking before you say it, and know you’re lying when you dare to try it. They keep it together, even when you feel like everything is falling apart.
To put it simply: mothers, no matter the parenting style or approach, seem to possess some sort of magical power, and at times, this magic distracts us from the reality that our moms are mortals, just like the rest of us. Our moms didn’t wake up one morning with all of life’s answers— their life experience, adventures, and mistakes molded them into the wonderful, complex, and smart people they are.
This Mother’s Day, we wanted to peel back the “mom” label, and talk to these women about who they were before we joined them. When they were around our age, who were they? What challenges did they face, and what epiphanies did they experience?
Below are the stories of four young women who grew up to be our moms. And who knows— maybe you’ll be inspired to talk to your mom about her own journey. Enjoy!
At 26, I was four years in as an international flight attendant with Japan Airlines. I was moving up fast — I'd just been promoted to assistant purser. But the reason I was working so hard was because a few months earlier, I came home to find out that my long-term boyfriend was cheating on me. My heart was broken, and I buried myself in work. That’s when I met Rachel's dad.
I was in an otoko iranai* mindset when I met him — slapping his hand away when he'd try to help me up the steps, always correcting his Japanese. I probably could have been a little nicer. But in the end, it all worked out.
To my 26-year-old self, I'd tell myself to keep being brave and go for the things I want — even if it feels impossible, like it did at times. It’s okay to fail, as long as you keep trying. And when you get tired or sad, remember that you can always come home.
Also, Rachel, it's time to start taking better care of your skin.
*I don't need a man!
At 25, Toni’s age, I knew nothing about life outside Manila. I was already on my third job as a staff nurse. My responsibilities included everything except taking care of the sick. Well, I did take care of the sick, but not in my paid job. I was expected to take care of my father who was chronically ill, and my neighbors knocked at our door for medical consults, injections, and even family planning.
I was very insecure about a lot of what ifs — there were indefinite situations I could see myself in, leading to one ending: a housewife. There’s nothing wrong with being one, but I wasn’t sure if there was a man worth doing all the activities I watched my mother do. So, I was still living at home. I was dating—dating means, the guy can accompany me on public transportation to go home from work—about three Interns, two attendings, a captain in the military, and two other boys from my neighborhood. I believe there were more. Yes, they all knew about each other, so there was scheduling.
What was I doing, exactly? Just letting time pass. I thought of going back to school — my brother sent me to nursing school, but I really wanted to be a chemical engineer. My brother asked me why I would waste money when I already was a nurse and had a job? He told me only men had futures in Engineering. I enrolled anyway and started my minor in Math.
Suddenly, my brother sent me a plane ticket to go to the south of the country. One of my sister’s children got sick and, as a good brother, he ordered me to go and help take care of her.
When I came back, I had to find another job. Since I lapsed a couple weeks in school, I had to drop out. My brother offered to pay back the money I spent, but I declined. I felt it added insult to the fact that what I wanted was ignored. (Now, my advice to Toni is that if her siblings offer her money, take it 😛.)
When I was Hilary’s age, I was newly married and living in a just-purchased first home (a fixer-upper that we never quite fixed up) in a gentrifying neighborhood that I probably could not afford now.
I was working at a brand-new job that was different from anything I’d done before, and awaiting the birth of my first child with equal parts excitement and terror, but sure that I only wanted a girl (I got my wish!). It was a time of bright beginnings.
As with many other people, my twenties had been somewhat turbulent, ending with the sudden death of my indomitable father. So I greeted my thirties with a sense of purpose and promise, along with a deep well of grief. I was taken up with life-changing events — love, shelter, work — and while I didn’t exactly close my eyes and make a mental list of things I was grateful for, I was pretty close to it.
(Betsy and Hilary, pictured on the far right.)
When I was Kelsey’s age, I was married and just about pregnant with her! For a 26-year-old, you could say I was pretty settled — my husband and I owned a house, we both had good jobs, we lived close to our families, and we were starting our own. For my friend group, I was one of the last of my friends to have a baby, and all of us just seemed to be in such a hurry to grow up.
My mom was a nurse and loved her job, and I was always inspired to pursue a career. Once I had Kelsey, though, my priorities began to jumble. I still loved my job and the people I worked with, but the idea of leaving her felt impossible. After maternity leave, I dropped her off at daycare and cried all the way to work. I realized I would need to find a compromise. I worked with my understanding boss to come up with the best solution for both of us — I would work 30 hours a week and take Wednesdays off, so I wasn’t away from Kelsey more than 2 days a week. That was the ideal solution at the time, but it doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and that’s a part of being a working mother. You might not always feel “balanced” because most of the time, there is no perfect solution!
There was such a rush at that time to be “grown up” — the house, the car, the kids. I’ve always encouraged my kids not to be swept away by the “rush,” because there is time for all of these things, but the unknown and endless possibilities when you’re young is such a gift. I’ve always encouraged Kelsey to slow things down and to follow her dreams. The “ticking clock” doesn’t exist. You’re on your own time.
What was your mom up to when she was your age? How does that differ from where *you* are? Share your stories in the comments. (...And don't forget to call your mom!)
by Kelsey Duchesne